When it comes down to it, this is weird filmmaking. It’s the story of a Hasidic married woman (the beautiful Hadas Yaron) made crazy by the one-two combo of a monotonous Montreal apartment and a sense-experience-denying religious husband. They sleep in separate beds, art is outlawed, and music, outside of religious chants, is strictly verboten. Cut to self-indulgent, nonreligious Félix (Martin Dubreuil), also depressed. Bring these two gentle malcontents together, and worlds are about to be obliterated. Or maybe not. Meanwhile periodical music videos pop in to visit, including the lovely, unexplained footage of Sister Rosetta Tharpe singing “Didn’t it Rain.” In the middle of an uneventful city walk, we hear the whole of Leonard Cohen’s “Famous Blue Raincoat.” I’m not complaining: It’s in my top 10 favorite songs. Except, oh yeah, it has no bearing on the plot or themes of the film.
On the other hand, when director Maxime Giroux isn’t courting Zen-like juxtapositions of marriage maladies and hipster melodies, he keeps his cinematic eye beautifully dispassionate. At times, he seems to be mocking the Hasidim with their pillbox hats and over-earnest godliness. And then he springs a surprisingly touching moment. We see Meira’s tragicomic husband eyeing a mouse in a trap, and suddenly it’s easier to sympathize with his divine purposefulness. Likewise, Félix seems nobly humanistic until we realize that sometimes his empty face isn’t hiding any secrets.
Relationship woes mixed with music craziness was explored better in Sarah Polley’s Toronto marriage-busting film Take This Waltz. Instead of religion, though, Polley used sex and food as male obsessions. This film may stay in your mind for movie reasons; Giroux gives us a cosmic view of Venice and a sparkling vision of New York to remember. But the main conceit, the impossibility of either marriage or cheating to bring happiness, seems like bitter cynicism. It might be true, but it’s not much fun to watch. No wonder they added videos.